Pioneering fostering project wins UK charity award

Fostered children and young people in the care of Hackney Council are now benefiting from an award-winning fostering programme. 

Hackney’s fostering service is part of the Mockingbird programme, run by charity The Fostering Network, which has seen off other outstanding projects to win the Big Impact Award at this year’s Third Sector Awards. 

Mockingbird uses a pioneering model, which sees a group of fostering households form a ‘hub’ - in a similar structure to that of an extended family. 

The children are encouraged to view other carers in the ‘hub’ as an extension of their fostering families, similar to aunts, uncles and cousins, and a ‘grandparent’ figure. They meet regularly in each other's homes and spend celebration times together.

The programme has seen excellent outcomes, including a reduction in relationship breakdowns in fostering households and greater retention of foster carers.

Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for Children's Services and Education
Deputy Mayor of Hackney and Cabinet Member for education, young people and children's social care, Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, said: “Supporting children and foster carers is one of the most important things we do as a Council. Our social work teams work tirelessly and I’m delighted that their efforts have been recognised in this way.

“This extended family model provides a high level of stability to children and young people and strengthens relationships and resilience, including that of birth families and social workers. I’m looking forward to seeing the work continue to develop and go from strength to strength.”

Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for Children's Services and Education

Janet Webb, a Mockingbird foster carer, said: “The Mockingbird project has helped me immensely; in my first year of fostering I have been supported by experienced foster carers who have been on the end of the phone when I have needed them. We all get on really well, and the children I care for have benefitted from the overnight support of the hub home carer.”

Shahida Ibrahiym, a social worker in the Mockingbird programme, said: “It has been wonderful to see and contribute towards the growth of the first Mockingbird constellation in Hackney. Over the past year, I have watched the carers and their children in placement grow as a family. Despite the challenges of the pandemic this year, the carers did not give up, they worked together to ensure that everyone in the constellation felt supported. The children and young people in the constellation have formed some beautiful friendships, and the hub home, really is a warm, nurturing and safe place for all those present.”

The judges called the Mockingbird incentive “A fantastic and innovative project, bringing real change and with demonstrable impact. This is a sea-change in the way foster care is delivered.”

The Mockingbird programme, which delivers the Mockingbird Family Model, originally developed by The Mockingbird Society in America in 2004, is run by the UK’s leading fostering charity, The Fostering Network, and part-funded by the Department for Education. The programme now comprises 39 partners and 61 constellations across Great Britain. 

Notes to editors 

For further comment, images and information please email media@fostering.net or call 07795 026 303.

12 per cent of carers would have resigned if they hadn’t been supported by the Mockingbird programme 

  • Of the 972 satellite carers participating in the programme between May 2018 and March 2020, services reported 119 would have resigned without the support provided by the Mockingbird programme. 
  • 1 in 5 placements would have broken down if they hadn’t been supported by the Mockingbird programme 
  • Of the 1,079 children and young people in placements participating in the programme between May 2018 and March 2020, services reported 216 placement breakdowns have been avoided. 

£3m total estimated cost avoidance between May 2018 and March 2020 

  • £1.9m estimated costs avoided with the retention of 119 foster carers 
  • £190k estimated costs avoided with the avoidance of 216 placement breakdowns 
  • £880k estimated costs avoided with the avoidance of 5 entries in residential care. 

About The Fostering Network 

The Fostering Network is the UK’s leading fostering charity. We are the essential network for fostering, bringing together everyone who is involved in the lives of fostered children. We support foster carers to transform children’s lives and we work with fostering services and the wider sector to develop and share best practice. We work to ensure all fostered children and young people experience stable family life and we are passionate about the difference foster care makes. We champion fostering and seek to create vital change so that foster care is the very best it can be. 

About the Mockingbird Programme 

The Fostering Network’s Mockingbird programme is an innovative method of foster care using the Mockingbird Family Model. The model centres on a constellation where one foster home acts as a hub, offering planned and emergency sleepovers and short breaks, advice, training and support, to six to 10 satellite households. The programme improves the stability of fostering placements and strengthens the relationships between carers, children and young people, fostering services and birth families. 

For more information visit thefosteringnetwork.org.uk/mockingbird.

View What is Mockingbird? On YouTube